BLACK FOREST, Colo. - With the Black Forest Fire at full containment and evacuations to be lifted Saturday morning, the focus shifts from firefighting to recovery and rebuilding.
"I'm tremendously relieved," said Naomi Ironwing, a fire evacuee. "It may be a safer place to live now. Mother Nature has done some mitigation on her own."
Authorities on Thursday held their last daily briefing on the fire that started nine days ago and destroyed 509 homes, left two people dead and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.
All evacuations end at 8 a.m. Saturday, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, and a strong law-enforcement presence will remain in Black Forest.
"We still have homes outside that central corridor that are burned," he said. "Those people haven't had time to work through insurance or sift through their property, so we still want to protect that."
Rich Harvey, incident commander for the fire, said the zone was 100 percent contained as of 6 p.m. Thursday. But he emphasized that hot spots remain, which could start other fires in the current hot, dry conditions.
Still, many evacuees are just glad to be going home -- and thankful that their homes didn't burn.
"We don't have water, we don't have some utilities," said fire evacuee Jenny Abernathy. "We have a lot of outbuildings burned. Fences are down. But the house is there. We're really excited."
Authorities have ruled out lightning and other natural causes in starting the fire. They'll now investigate whether it started intentionally or by accident.